The FINANCIAL -- Georgian bakery Ipkli is continuing to improve the customer experience, to strengthen dialogue with its customers and enhance relations with them at every level.
To achieve this goal Ipkli communicates directly with its customer through various social media channels, such as Facebook and a blog. This year many people have shown an interest in visiting Ipkli’s factory, therefore the company opened its doors to visitors. Anyone interested can now observe the process of baking bread at Ipkli.
“We are planning to improve customer relations at every level. Last year we started to engage our customers trough social media channels. This helped us hear from them directly their opinions regarding our products and production line. We not only listen to people’s concerns and suggestions, but also act on them. The dialogue with our customers caused many positive changes at Ipkli. We plan to direct our efforts further in this direction. Also, our employees will be trained in order to improve their customer service skills,” Bakar Bakuradze, director of Ipkli, told the Financial.
“Our renewed European factory sparked everyone’s attention. Therefore, we decided to offer general public tours in our factory. Our employees will guide the tour and our chief technologist will show and explain all the processes to visitors. Ipkli’s doors have been open to visitors for quite a long time. Mainly, as part of their curriculum, students and pupils visit our factory. Some are excited by the newest technologies, others only want to see what kind of environment the bread is made in, what the ingredients are, how we choose them and what the standards of food safety and sanitation are,” Bakuradze said.
“Building a healthy relationship with customers starts with offering high-quality products to them. Taking this fact into account, we started to use a traditional method of baking bread and applied it to all breads made at Ipkli,” he added.
“In early 2016 we started producing bread by using the classic sponge-and-dough method, where fermented starter is involved instead of rapid baking with a no-time dough process. For as long as we remember, to bake bread people in Georgia used sourdough, natural yeast or fermented starter using only a very small amount of bakers fresh yeast,” Gela Kodalashvili, chief technologist of Ipkli told the Financial.
“Until the ‘90s this method was used not only in the home setting, but also in industrial bakeries. After the ‘90s, due to a lack of technologies and knowledge and partially to cut production costs, industries as well as people in Georgia started using rapid processing methods in which the baking process was reduced from the original 6-12 to only two hours. All of this made the bread in our country flavorless and less tasty,” Kodalashvili said.
“We set a goal a long time ago to have a bakery where bread would be produced by the standard procedures that the developed world follows. It took us time and lots of resources, but now Ipkli is the only company in mass production in Georgia that bakes bread using the thorough procedure. I hope people will soon understand that taking a longer time to bake and using fermented starters is a healthier method,” he added.
Ipkli aspires to be the leader in the industry. Therefore the company made its choice to maintain high quality on all its products. Skipping the necessary procedures is not a consideration at Ipkli.
“Ipkli is a successful company and we care about our customers and their confidence in us. This is our most valuable asset. Ipkli’s bread and pastry have high quality and lower price margins. Advancing the bread industry is our honour. People can enjoy the results of it,” Bakuradze said.
Ipkli currently offers a wide assortment to its customers. Traditional types of bread, specifically white bread loaves are the top-selling product, followed by black loaf, rye and bran bread, Latvian black bread and Ekonombatoni white bread. Ipkli produces about 35 sorts of bread and 40 confectionery products, of which the most popular are Batoni bread.
Q. The year 2015 was challenging for Ipkli. How would you summarize the company’s activities throughout 2015?
A. Indeed, 2015 was an important milestone for our company. We set new challenges to overcome and quite simply, we started to work.
The main challenge was to successfully install all the European automated production lines. If you could see the massiveness of the equipment, you would understand that it was difficult, time-consuming and required lots of attention to detail.
In 2016 we installed the newest technology from Europe that enables us to produce bread here in Tbilisi by European standards. Most notably, once the machinery is set, Ipkli’s bread is baked automatically without human involvement in the process.
First of all, to achieve success, we had to restructure the company. Last year we rebranded Ipkli. Since 2015 our slogan is ‘baked with love’ and our logo is dark green. Furthermore, we changed the packaging of almost all our products. This helps our customers distinguish our bread and pastry.
To overcome customers’ fears, we launched the Choose a Healthy Whole Grain Bread campaign. During the campaign, we informed consumers on how healthy black bread is made. The campaign sparked the interest of the media and the general public. Our representatives were invited to talk about the issue through numerous media channels.
All the work was not in vain, as we successfully reached our goals in 2016.
Q. How did the year 2016 start for the company?
A. The whole team at Ipkli is proud about the positive changes we made. The results of our work will be far reaching. However, we can’t allow ourselves to rest. The next challenge is to successfully communicate with our customers about the positive changes at Ipkli. In addition, we have to look at the trends, listen to our customers, and never stop developing the business.
Q. Food safety is one of the prioritised directions for Georgia after signing the Association Agreement with the European Union. How is Ipkli involved in this process?
A. We are ready for upcoming changes in this regard, as we already established European standards at our factory. Besides the improved factory, since 2015 we have with the newest technology equipped laboratory. Here we are able to check the quality of ingredients in all kinds of detail.
Q. How actively are you involved in PR and marketing activities?
A. In 2015 we held a successful PR campaign about the natural colour of whole grain bread in Georgia. The campaign was educational and within the framework we gave detailed information about whole grain bread to anyone interested. Involvement of customers, media and other stakeholders was surprisingly high. People seek information. They want to know how the bread they consume daily is made; therefore we plan to hold similar activities in the future as well.
Q. Do you plan to improve the distribution network this year?
A. Currently, we distribute our products to Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Rustavi, Gori and Kutaisi. Demand for Ipkli products is growing and we are considering expanding our business. Luckily, everyone is eager to get our goods, which is a great motivation for us. People are contacting us from various regions of Georgia. They want to see Ipkli’s bread and pastry in their cities. We hope to cover as many regions as we possibly can.
Q. Georgian bakery Ipkli has won a Golden Brand Award for its achievements in bread and pastry production. What are the reasons why experts named you a Golden Brand company?
A. The main reason is the reputation Ipkli has. Customers trust Ipkli as since 1993 we have been providing them with healthy and tasty high quality bread and pastry. Currently, our factory is the only one in the bread industry which works on a 100 percent fully automated baking system. This is a great step forward. Furthermore, right now we are the only company in Georgia which bakes using baking standards in mass production. Having a laboratory, where we test ingredients and approve them for use only after a thorough examination, is another reason to trust Ipkli’s products. I guess these are the main reasons why experts chose Ipkli as a leader company of the baking industry.